Mr. Speaker, I think it is certainly a relevant day, given the question that was asked by the member from the Bloc Quebecois in the House on what we do to deal with contaminated sites.
Today I wish to advise Parliament that as a government we are introducing a new federal toxic substances management policy. What we would like to do is begin with pollution prevention to avoid the kinds of messes we saw with things like PCBs in the past.
We do not often get up in the House to discuss complex scientific issues involving complicated chemical compounds. However, we also do not often discuss the need to stop poisoning ourselves, our children, our environment, our reproductive systems, our food chain, and our genetic make-up. We do not often discuss how chemicals can affect the health Canadians and the health of our environment.
Toxic substances in the air, water, soil and sediment upset the balance of nature and jeopardize the interdependent existence of all living things on earth.
The new toxics policiy I am announcing today will apply across the scope of federal activity-not just the Department of the Environment. The policy calls for virtual elimination from the environment of substances that result from human activity, that take a long time to break down, that build up in living organisms and that are toxic.
For other substances that threaten the health of our environment, we will implement full life cycle management-from cradle to grave.
It is cradle to grave management for those substances.
If we cannot find the means to keep certain natural substances from being released into the environment, we need to take measures to prevent generation and their use by humans. Federal laws, regulations, policies and programs will be used to turn off the tap of release into the environment of bio-accumulative and persistent toxic substances produced by Canadians.
What does that mean? It means saying no to toxins that work their way into the food chain. It means saying no to toxins that take too much time to break down once they are released.
All other substances of concern under federal jurisdiction will face the world's strictest controls.
The new policy is based on the most advanced scientific methods and concepts, and expert analysis, including computer modelling and internationally accepted criteria.
In making today's announcement, the government is making public complete details of the policy and a document describing the scientific basis and the technical criteria of the policy.
In making today's announcement, the government is making public complete details of the policy and the document describing the scientific basis and technical criteria of the policy. The government is also publishing a third document summarizing the main issues identified in eight months of public consultations and our response to those issues.
The policy covers the complete range of toxic substances that are used or released into the environment as a result of our modern lifestyle. PCBs, dioxins, furans would not have been accepted had we known their effect on human health and on the food chain. This policy will mean that new industrial chemicals, new pesticides, new compounds produced by biotechnology, and new chemicals that mimic human hormones will be banned unless they can satisfy rigorous scientific criteria. The onus will not be on Canadians to prove that these products pose a danger. The onus will be on the manufacturer to show that they are safe and can be properly managed.
The bottom line is that a decision to ban new chemicals and new products will be made on science. For existing toxic substances that continue to pose a risk the decision to eliminate the products from the environment will also be based on science. We will establish targets and schedules that will take into account social, economic, and technical considerations.
During public consultations some have made the point that they should have the opportunity to produce additional scientific evidence once a preliminary decision to virtually eliminate or to stop the production of a product is made. The government will provide that opportunity, but we will provide the same opportunity to scientific experts, to other governments, and to the public. For human made toxic substances that are not persistent and do not bioaccumulate, do not stay in the environment for a long time, actions to control them will take into account risk management and legal, economic, and sociological factors.
In simplest terms, the worst offending toxics will be gone, all other toxics will be managed throughout their entire life-cycle.
In English we say cradle to grave management.
There are those who may complain that this is too tough a policy. Tell that to people who live along dead lakes and rivers, with deformed fish and birds. Tell that to Canadians who breathe our country's air, till our country's soil and swim in our country's waters.
I want to be clear that these actions apply to areas under federal control. Many toxic substance problems in Canada fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories; hence my response earlier in question period on the issue of contaminated sites. It is the federal government's intention to use the policy we are announcing today in order to pursue a national strategy for managing toxic substances through discussions with the provinces and the territories.
I think here is one example where a PCB in Quebec, a PCB in Ontario, and a PCB in British Columbia pose the same problem for Canadians.
I do not approach this matter with a "holier than thou" attitude.
The federal government's hands have not always been clean in the past nor has the federal government made a determined effort to be a world leader in controlling toxic substances.
My belief is, however, that it is in the absolute interest of Canadians to work together to eliminate and control toxics, and, more importantly, beacause this is what Canadians want.
We need a united Canadian strategy for dealing with the world community. The free flow of air and water means that dangerous substances released in one community can end up poisoning the environment of another community a thousand kilometres away. That is why it is important to have a Canadian policy but it also means toxic substances produced in other countries end up poisoning Canadians. Toxic substances in eastern Europe are currently poisoning breast milk of mothers living in the Canadian Arctic.
Lake Superior is probably the most virgin of the Great Lakes. If we took all the toxins of local creation out of Lake Superior at the moment that lake would be 20 per cent damaged as a result of toxins that come from places that have never even heard of Canada, places very far away where the toxins come out of the smokestacks, get into the atmosphere, travel to the Arctic shield and diffuse over Canada.
That is why we need not only a national strategy but an international strategy for birds flying over our Pacific coast, fish swimming in our Atlantic waters and people living along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.
The federal government will use the strategy and the policy announced today as a basis for negotiations with the world community. Next week Canada will host in Vancouver a meeting of the world's leading experts on persistent organic pollutants. We will co-chair the meeting with the Philippines so that we can have the right marriage of countries of the industrialized world as well as countries en voie de développement. International
co-operation is certainly needed in areas from capacity building to technology transfer, to the use of alternative substances.
The Government of Canada is announcing this policy for Canadians because it is the right thing to do. In doing so I know we are following a course directly contrary to the course currently being advocated by members of the Congress of the United States. Certain American Congress people are calling for fewer controls over toxic substances. They want to release more toxins into the St. Lawrence, into the Great Lakes, into our oceans and other bodies of water and air we share. With the greatest respect, that downgrading attitude by some members of the United States Congress is dead wrong.
By this policy today Canada is sending a message to the world and in particular to our American partners that we will do our part to deal with toxic substances and we expect them to do theirs.
When you look at the people living along Lake Champlain, who are currently facing an ecological disaster partly because of construction operations by the Americans, it is obvious that the environment knows no boundaries.
By moving Canada to the forefront in managing toxics, we can move Canada to the forefront of new businesses, new green technologies and new green jobs. I am confident that the new policy will serve the long term health of our economy and I know that it will serve the health of our environment and the health of Canadians.
On Monday I will be in Montreal opening the Biosphere which is another tribute to the possibility for Canada to begin to return to a country where environmental technology is not imported but exported.
At the Biosphere, on Monday, you will see that with the Biodome, the Biosphere, the environmental centre-the public really supports this endeavour-and modern technology, Canadian technology, we are indeed able to go ahead and eliminate these toxic substance. But to succeed, policy and legislation are required to speed up the process of protecting the environment.
We do not want to go down the road of the Americans who are now saying this to 50 million people who drank water from the Great Lakes. This summer we are getting into a period of potential smog. I am sorry to say that in the United States the current acceptable levels of smog are about 40 per cent higher than in Canada. Who breathes that?
The Detroit-Windsor corridor sends all the stuff over to the Canadian side and we end up losing work days because of pollution problems caused by persistent toxins that come over from the United States.
We want to make sure with this policy that we have our own house in order to ensure that when we go to Vancouver next week and when we go to the international community and in particular when we go to our American neighbour, we will not allow the U.S. Congress to lose the gains we have made. The action we are taking today is a further commitment to the strategy of pollution prevention which says we should not only focus on cleaning up messes but make sure the messes do not occur in the first place.
This policy does not offer overnight miracles but it does provide a solid foundation for dealing with toxic substances and getting those persistent bioaccumulative toxins out of the environment permanently. The need to take action is easy to understand which is why we are moving today on a policy I think will put us at the forefront of dealing with toxins into the 21st century.